by Emily Yosmanovich, contributing blogger
Years ago (in 1981) I was born at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. At that time it wasn’t nearly as big as it is today. And as the 54th baby born that day, I was almost born in the hallway while my mom waited for an open delivery room.
Things have really changed since then. The Fairfax Hospital campus has grown and yet another new expansion to be completed in 2016 will make it even bigger. It is now a U.S. News & World Report nationally ranked full-service hospital, providing hundreds of sub-specialty services to patients.
At almost midnight, when we arrived and signed in, I figured we’d be waiting forever because that’s kind of what you expect at an E.R., right? But within ten minutes, they took us to a room and immediately got started treating my daughter.
A lot of scary procedures happened that night, which I will spare you the details of, but what I will share is that at every step of the way the doctors and nurses explained everything thoroughly and calmly. They helped me feel secure that we were in excellent hands. I was allowed to hold my baby girl through procedures, and was given the privacy to nurse her and soothe her between each one.
When we were told my baby needed to be admitted for a stay of probably a week, I have to admit that I freaked out a bit (okay, a lot). The possibility of anything really bad happening to my baby hadn’t ever seemed tangible until that moment.
As circumstances had it, I was alone at the hospital at the time.
I started crying because I was scared and worried and confused (and probably just a wee bit exhausted). The nurse in the room sat down with me, held my hand, and tried to comfort me. When she left, she asked the doctor to visit and check on me. I was shocked, and also comforted by this level of care for not only the patient, but also for the parent of the patient.
That level of concern for all members of a child patient’s family radiated through our experience over that week. A particular example that stands out is our second night’s stay. My daughter was still fighting a high fever and was fussy enough to need constant comforting.
I had been awake for over 48 hours without rest and was at the end of my rope with exhaustion and stress.
When the nurse came in to administer my daughter’s IV medication, she found me trying to bounce and sing to my baby as tears poured off my face.
That night my daughter slept in her car seat at the nurse’s station, with the nurses taking turns holding her and soothing her. I got my first good night’s rest, and woke up ready to deal with everything again. I was beyond thankful for such a kind staff of nurses.
When it was decided that my daughter’s case required a specialist, we were pleased to discover that the infectious disease doctor who came is nationally recognized in his field (as are many of the pediatric specialists at INOVA). Dr. Keim or one of his associates visited us every day over our stay. Each time we were well informed of developments in the lab tests and given thorough explanations about decisions for her care.
Again, I felt super secure.
When my two-year-old son was allowed to visit, I was worried about him wreaking havoc upon the room. Instead, he got to visit his baby sister for the short time his attention span allowed and then a Child Life Specialist helped us find the playroom.
The walk (actually, he rode in a fun red wagon) to the playroom featured Andy’s Helicopter Landing, a windowed walkway with views of the medivac helicopter landing pad. My son was in heaven. Next, the hallway floors were tiled to look like railway tracks… my son was in a higher level of heaven. And then we reached the playroom and I think he was higher than heaven.
He exclaimed, “Mommy! Much TOYS!”
Of course the first thing that entered my mind was germs, right? It’s a hospital. Sick kids playing together seemed a little bit crazy! As I watched, though, the level of hygiene impressed me greatly. The toys were all stored in drawers that covered the walls almost up to the ceiling. Volunteers helped the children find what they wanted to play with. When the child was finished playing, they loaded the toys in a tub, and the toys were sanitized before returning to their drawers.
I watched as older children made crafts with the volunteers, even while hooked up to IVs and other equipment. My son made his way to an enclosed outdoor courtyard. There was a basketball court, a gazebo, and a lot of ride-on toys and balls. I was most awed by the toy car that had a special pole to hook the IV bag to. I thought to myself how lucky children in our area are to have such a caring, child-friendly hospital nearby.
The Child Life program is really quite amazing. Specialists schedule entertainers like storytellers and magicians who perform in the playroom and also visit children’s rooms. If a child cannot visit the playroom, toys and activities are brought to them. When a child needs a medical procedure, specialists use props and tours to prepare and explain the procedure to the child beforehand. During procedures, specialists help distract children with appropriate activities.
Of course, my one-month-old daughter didn’t need most of this, but I was still impressed…
Hopefully, God willing, we will never have to return to INOVA Children’s Hospital, at least not for any extended stay. But if we do, I will feel confident in the medical care and blessed by the abundance of love and child-centric activity.
The current expansion for the hospital includes a new Children’s Hospital facility. I was already impressed by the current private rooms, cheerful colors and paintings, and elaborate play area… so I am pretty sure when the new one opens up, it will be something marvelous!